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Potteries Orienteering Club

West Midlands Orienteering Association

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First published in The Potter May 2006
Text © Copyright John Heaton 2006

Bathpool Park

Geography

Bathpool Park is a steep sided narrow valley extending southwards from almost the centre of Kidsgrove for a distance of about 2km. Near the south end the valley splits in two, the western fork terminating near the roadside of the A34 very close to the A500 Talke roundabout. This is a point on the main east-west watershed, a small stream to the south-east of the roundabout feeds into the River Trent via Fowlea Brook (the valley which the A500 follows southwards). The stream in Bathpool as with all other streams disappears into an underground drainage system. Towards the north end of the valley is a large artificial lake, Bathpool, which gives the name of the park. This must, I assume, be fed by the underground drainage system and also drain back into the underground system. There is a small lake up on top of the hillside in the NW corner of the map. Although the areas of woodland are small they offer complex contour detail and a large number of platforms and small depressions and slightly fewer gullies and earth banks. There is only one rock feature on the main part of the map, a small crag very close to the north car park. A section of old railway (see below) is lined with high crags from the old cutting and a section of the map on the other side of a lane has a line of crags to the upper terrace of the railway embankment. Beyond this is a small area of woodland called Kidswood which includes a small area of open land at the top of a hill with an old windmill in the middle.

The Railway

This is unfortunately the dominating feature of the area. It was not a feature until 1969 when the Harecastle railway tunnel was closed. The railway then ran though this 2km tunnel about 500m to the east parallel to and above to the still operating Harecastle Canal Tunnels. The new railway runs north-south from each end of the valley; fortunately there are 5 crossing points available to any course planner. Just to the north of the northern car park a short section of the old railway and the tunnel (on the map), can be seen. As the track emerged from the mile long tunnel it quickly disappeared for a short distance under Boat Horse Road (an old lane used by horses unable to pass through the canal tunnel which runs north-south to the east of the area.) The short tunnel is open and leads to a 100m length of old railway which terminates at the intersection of the new line.

Other activities

Very recently a body called Staffs Bashers set up a model car racing circuit adjacent to the car park at the south end of the park. A wide variety of other outdoor activities take place in the area. One of the country‘s first artificial ski slopes was built about 30 years ago by the North Staffs Ski Club. It is on the western slopes of the valley close to the lake, with a small club hut at the foot of the 100m slope. The Kidsgrove Cricket Club premises and pitch lie about 300m away but still within the boundary of our map. (We used their car park when we staged the Colour Coded event in 1996.) Just north are the premises and green of Clough Hall Bowling Club; it is still on the map but well hidden. Lying at the foot of Bathpool dam are some football pitches and just on the NW edge of the map some rugby and football pitches are found. The latter (again I am making a deductive assumption) are used by Linley and Kidsgrove Rugby F.C., who have their official base listed as the Cricket Club. Fishermen can be seen on both the lakes. Until about 2000 the North Staffs Road Runners staged an annual 4 lap, 5 mile race around the wide tracks and paths in the middle of the park.

History

Bathpool Park became infamous in March 1975 when the body of the missing Shropshire heiress Lesley Whittle was discovered in a shaft at the north end of the park which accesses the underground drainage system. She had been kidnapped 52 days earlier by the "Black Panther", Donald Neilson.

The only reference I can find to the early history is in an article on the botany of the area saying that the area had some connection to a large house that existed at Clough Hall. There is evidence of early coal mining on the eastern flanks of the valley close to the south end of Bathpool. Up to about 10-15 years ago there existed a very small private mine named Lowlands Colliery, up to that point some of the drainage water from the mine could be seen trickling down the slopes.

Event History

Date Event Planner Competitors
24 February 1980 Club
23 November1980 Club
18 May 1985 Local Carole Sparke
17 August 1985 Local A.Dix & D.Ledger
16 August 1986 Local Barbara Farr
17 October 1987 Local Judy Douglas
16 April 1988 Local Colin Beilby
19 September 1989 Local John Birtles 55
17 February 1990 Local Martin Pigott 73
15 September 1990 Local Robin Baker
12 May 1991 Local Robin Baker 62
13 September 1992 Local Henry Morgan 72
19 September 1993 Local Austin Farr 90
8 January 1994 Night Robin Baker
22 September 1996 Colour Nigel Beasant 229
21 June 1997 Local Jean Rostron 40
25 April 1998 Local Terry Deighton 23
18 July 1999 Local A. & M. Rowe 29
20 May 2000 Local Robin Baker 41
8 June 2002 Local John Heaton 6
19 June 2004 Local Dave & Lil Bales 32

Flora and Fauna

The small valley that forks to the SW is called Target Wood and is the most isolated and therefore the most natural area of woodland, although a disused small reservoir lies at its heart. This attracts a few anglers but also varieties of damselflies. The woodland here is mainly oak with sycamore in the wetter areas. This is the largest area of woodland. Where this valley joins the main valley there is a large area of unmanaged meadow which has a diversity of flower sand grasses. It is dry and well drained in places and wet and boggy in others off the Target Wood stream. The remainder of the woodland is in small patches and all are different. In the far north there are more mature larger deciduous trees. The eastern slopes and a small patch on the west side at the far south have large areas of coniferous plantation. Areas of brambles are not excessive and from memory are in small patches. There are areas of bracken, mainly on the west side. There is a 150m × 150m patch on the lower end of Target Wood and on the upper slopes above Bathpool on the open land above the woodland.

John Heaton